Table of Contents
Journal of Amino Acids
Volume 2015, Article ID 973548, 13 pages
Review Article

Endotoxin-Induced Tryptophan Degradation along the Kynurenine Pathway: The Role of Indolamine 2,3-Dioxygenase and Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor-Mediated Immunosuppressive Effects in Endotoxin Tolerance and Cancer and Its Implications for Immunoparalysis

Institute of Genome Biology, Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, Germany

Received 28 August 2015; Revised 28 October 2015; Accepted 6 December 2015

Academic Editor: Mario Herrera-Marschitz

Copyright © 2015 Elisa Wirthgen and Andreas Hoeflich. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The degradation of tryptophan (TRP) along the kynurenine pathway plays a crucial role as a neuro- and immunomodulatory mechanism in response to inflammatory stimuli, such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS). In endotoxemia or sepsis, an enhanced activation of the rate-limiting enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) is associated with a higher mortality risk. It is assumed that IDO induced immunosuppressive effects provoke the development of a protracted compensatory hypoinflammatory phase up to a complete paralysis of the immune system, which is characterized by an endotoxin tolerance. However, the role of IDO activation in the development of life-threatening immunoparalysis is still poorly understood. Recent reports described the impact of inflammatory IDO activation and aryl hydrocarbon receptor- (AhR-) mediated pathways on the development of LPS tolerance and immune escape of cancer cells. These immunosuppressive mechanisms offer new insights for a better understanding of the development of cellular dysfunctions in immunoparalysis. This review provides a comprehensive update of significant biological functions of TRP metabolites along the kynurenine pathway and the complex regulation of LPS-induced IDO activation. In addition, the review focuses on the role of IDO-AhR-mediated immunosuppressive pathways in endotoxin tolerance and carcinogenesis revealing the significance of enhanced IDO activity for the establishment of life-threatening immunoparalysis in sepsis.